Impact of our Kusuma Excellence Fellowships

Supporting disadvantaged students to realise their ambitions


According to the World Bank (2015), 95% of children in India attend primary school, but only 44% complete Class 10 (about 15 to 16 years of age). Students from low income families may find it hard to finish their secondary education because of financial constraints or other barriers to learning. In response, we developed the Kusuma Excellence Fellowship programme to support high-achieving pupils from low-income families to complete secondary school and progress to higher education or professional courses.

About the programme

The fellowship programme targeted students in Class 10, when they are making critical decisions about their future. Fellows were offered a small amount of money and a wide range of support, such as workshops and career counselling.

Each year, 100 students were selected in Sambalpur, Odisha, and 100 in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh. They were chosen based on the results of their Class 10 Board exams and their family income.

  • Kusuma Excellence Fellowships supported high-achieving pupils from low-income families in India to realise their academic or professional potential.
  • A two-year evaluation study from the London School of Economics showed the Fellowships had a positive impact on academic performance, the value students attach to education and student perceptions about their own ability.

About the research

Between 2015 and 2017, London School of Economics researchers, Dr Sandra Sequeira and Dr Guo Xu, evaluated the impact of the Kusuma Excellence Fellowship programme. They assessed fellows’ academic performance, attitudes to education, transition to higher education and career aspirations using quasi-experimental research methods.

Key findings

At the end of the evaluation, when students had finished their final year of secondary school (Class 12), findings showed that Kusuma Excellence Fellowships:

  • improved academic performance
    • fellows achieved on average 3.5% points higher overall marks in the grade 12 exam than comparable non-recipients
    • fellows were 12% points more likely to obtain a distinction (75%+) in the grade 12 Board exam than non-recipients.
  • enhanced fellows’ perceptions about their own ability, life satisfaction and optimism, and the value they attach to education
  • led to increased enrolment in higher quality colleges.

Download the Evaluation of Kusuma Excellence Fellowships: Year 1
Download the Evaluation of Kusuma Excellence Fellowships: Year 2

“I am so lucky and grateful to receive this prestigious award. Whilst I really appreciate the financial support to continue my studies, the additional opportunities such as access to resources, computers and training courses has been amazing. I am especially impressed with the career counselling I receive. I now have a clear career goal, I hope to become an engineer.”

Kusuma Excellence Fellowship awardee, 2014

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